Rows of colorful electric guitars, new drum sets and sleek keyboards greet customers when they walk into Sims Music. Founded by Jerry Sims in 1979, Sims began as a small studio teaching only guitar, with a limited stock of guitars for sale.
Forty-four years later, Sims has evolved into a bigger store that sells a wide variety of instruments, teaches lessons, repairs instruments and offers a connection to Columbia's music scene.
For Justin Sims, the general manager of Sims Music, the ability to unite Columbia's artists and provide customers with the best customer service and instruments is "super cool." The store works to match customers with their dream instruments and serves as an outlet for musicians and music lovers to interact.
“A local musician walks in to get a pack of strings, runs into his buddy he’s played some gigs with, they start talking; that fuels their fire,” Justin Sims said. “We’re that hub, or we try to be.”
Sims Music is a place of connection and friendship not only for customers, but also the employees who said they have fun when they come into work. Derreck Webber and Jake Wheeler, both store associates, have frequented Sims since they were kids.
“We’re all friends here, so it’s really easy working here,” Webber said. “And we all like music, so it’s pretty chill.”
Wheeler said that the Columbia community has always been supportive of Sims Music and their commitment to teaching and serving Columbia.
“Since we’re a local mom and pop store, we get a lot of people that like to support that,” Wheeler said. “(We) have a relatively loyal customer base. Yeah, it’s a good community.”
The well-known rock band Hootie & the Blowfish “grew up in the store,” according to Justin Sims. His dad taught guitar to Mark Bryan for years and when Justin was young, he used to play basketball with Bryan behind the store. The band members, especially Bryan and Jim Sonefeld, still come back to visit and even their kids are customers.
Justin Sims and his employees have built lasting friendships with their customers and each other by embracing a connection with all types of musicians. Justin Sims’ favorite part of working there is seeing the satisfaction on his customers' faces.
“I was fixing up some guy’s snare drum that he wasn’t happy with the sound. So, I just got to change all the heads and tune it up and then he was extremely pleased. That’s my favorite task. I don’t have time to do it like I used to,” Justin Sims said. “So, whenever I do get to put my hands on an actual drum and tune it for someone and see them get excited about it, that’s my favorite thing to do.”
Sims hopes to share more of these connections with college students in the future. Sims Music is a 15-minute drive from campus and because of the distance, Justin Sims has felt like there has been a disconnection with USC students. He wishes that there was a better link to them because he sees college as the perfect time to help students find new interests.
“What better time to learn to play guitar or drums; you have so much time in college," Justin Sims said. “If someone really wanted to create a new hobby for life, (now) would be the time to do it.”
Sims Music is open six days a week, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Visit their website here for more details.